- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, was in Washington last week, asking for more U.S. peacekeepers and funds to be deposited directly into his government's treasury. He got neither. Instead, President Bush offered assistance in training a new military and police force there. Next week, the United States will send a team of advisers to talk with Afghanistan's authorities about how this would be done. Eventually, Pentagon officials and American military equipment could help the fledgling institutions get started. By committing to help build both institutions, the United States must consider how its allies will assist in this effort and whether it will build on the institutions now run by the Northern Alliance.
To have the Northern Alliance become a national police force would be a disaster. A political force is inclined to make the Pashtuns and other ethnic groups feel intimidated, and would thus be ineffective. Mr. Bush called the security training plan a "better yet" option than peacekeepers. Indeed, if the administration successfully helps create an apolitical security system, it could eliminate the need for American peacekeeping there in the future.
In creating a new force, it will be important that the United States remains committed to directing the project, while letting Turkey play an important role in the training of the new police and military forces. Turkey, a Muslim state with a secular military, has trained Afghanistan's security forces since the 1920s. At that time, Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, dispatched Turkish educators, cadets and doctors to build schools, military colleges and hospitals. Turkey's assistance continued through the '60s, until the Soviet influences in Afghanistan turned the country away from democratic reforms. But Turkey has recently been conducting limited training of opposition groups such as the Northern Alliance. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit offered to help train the security forces, and Mr. Bush welcomed the offer. Now Britain, the United States and Turkey are deciding how that training force would be structured, and a decision could be reached as soon as this week, according to the Turkish Embassy. "Our commitment to the Afghani nation has been a long-standing one," embassy spokesman Mehmet Ali Bayar said. "Before it was purely historic reasons and cultural reasons and commitment in the moral sense. Now it has become even more important because it has become a national security problem for all of us."
Turkey has the relationship with Afghanistan ethically, politically and religiously to make the security training affective. In a country where corrupt warlords still hold power and an interim government has not yet been tested, such a project can only be done once, and it must be done right. At a forum on Afghanistan at the Heritage Foundation last Thursday, Thomas Klein read from congressional memos from 1989, when he was the chief legislative assistant for the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan. Then, as now, an interim Afghan leader canvassed Capitol Hill for support. The international community gave money. The United States assigned a special envoy to the "new revitalized" post-Soviet country. And then it forgot about Afghanistan.
For the sake of America's own national security, this cannot happen again. With focused commitment from the United States to ensure the new security forces remain apolitical and to allow the new forces to have the training they need from those who know them best it won't.


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